It has been a while since I last managed a Literary Excursion post. Exams, dissertation-writing, and a preponderance of shifts at Knebworth House have left me with limited time to venture out into the world. Fortunately, a bit of glorious weather (and the fact that George Bernard Shaw’s home is just 10 minutes down the road) provoked me to indulge in a trip.
Known as Shaw’s Corner, this is the house inhabited by the Irish playwright and novelist George Bernard Shaw from 1906, for a little over 40 years. Having decided to leave the house to the National Trust in his will, it is now open to the public – preserved as it was when he occupied the place (although his wife’s belongings have, at her request, been removed from view).
Shaw is perhaps best known for his plays, with Pygmalion serving as the basis for the musical My Fair Lady. As a co-founder of the London School of Economics, where I am currently wrapping up my Masters, I also have a lot of personal interest in his work and political activities. The fact that Shaw’s Corner offers a relatively untouched reflection of Shaw’s life makes it a valuable and fascinating destination for fans.
I have spent quite a number of previous posts highlighting my love for the National Trust. Avoiding too much repetition on that score, I will simply say that the Trust has done a fantastic job with Shaw’s Corner. To walk in the footsteps of a literary hero is truly a privilege, but to enjoy a visit to his or her amazingly preserved home is another experience entirely. Shaw’s Corner is a beautiful house in a perfect setting – the village of Ayot St Lawrence is one of the most typically English that I have visited. That Shaw was able to write his most popular works in this place in unsurprising. So, for a true insight into literary genius, a visit to Shaw’s Corner is something you cannot beat.
“This is my dell and this my dwelling
Their charm so far beyond my telling,
That though in Ireland is my birthplace
This home shall be my final earthplace.”
– George Bernard Shaw (Rhyming Guide to Ayot St Lawrence)